All over the globe today World Hepatitis Day is being observed! July 28th was earmarked back in 2011 to dedicate World Hepatitis Day to bring all countries together to work with single minded devotion on the scourge of viral hepatitis. The thematic issue was taken up to raise awareness for the global burden of this disease as also to influence real change. It is also one of the just four disease-specific global awareness days officially endorsed by the World Health Organization.
The day involves stakeholders that include patient organizations, governments, medical professionals, civil society, industry and the general public to work together in order to boost the global profile of viral hepatitis. Viral hepatitis remains one of the leading causes of death globally. It accounts for nearly 1.34 million deaths per year. This figure tallies to the total HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria deaths! Additionally hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C cause 80% of liver cancer cases in the world.
It is interesting to make note that viral hepatitis is not found in any one location or amongst any given set of people. It is actually truly a global epidemic that affects millions of people without them even being aware. Presently 90% of people living with hepatitis B and 80% living with hepatitis C are not aware of their status! This can result in the real possibility of developing fatal liver disease at some point in their lives and in some cases, unknowingly transmitting the infection to others.
With the availability of effective vaccines and treatments for hepatitis B and a cure for hepatitis C, the elimination of viral hepatitis is achievable, but greater awareness and understanding of the disease and the risks is a must, as is access to cheaper diagnostics and treatment. With the recent adoption of the world’s first global hepatitis strategy, we stand at a pivotal moment in time. Besides political commitment, urgent action is needed or deaths will continue to rise and the epidemic will continue to grow.
World Hepatitis Day therefore becomes an opportunity to join together and raise the profile of viral hepatitis among the public. The elimination of viral hepatitis has to be firmly put as a priority agenda. The 69th World Health Assembly in Geneva had 194 governments adopting WHO’s Global Strategy on Viral Hepatitis. This included the goal of eliminating hepatitis B and C in the next 13 years. The community responded by launching NOhep, the first ever global movement to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030.
Today we can all commit to and build on the momentum to accelerate progress towards achieving the goal of elimination by 2030. ELIMINATE HEPATITIS is a simple call to action that involves everyone. Regardless of priorities the theme may be easily adapted for local use to achieve elimination, greater awareness, increased diagnosis and key interventions that include universal vaccination, blood and injection safety, harm reduction and treatment. Every activity that addresses viral hepatitis is a step towards eliminating it.
No matter what your plans are to mark WHD, be it a rally or press briefing or testing events, they can all come under the theme of Eliminate Hepatitis. The elimination of viral hepatitis is not just a public health goal – it is an individual goal for millions of men, women and children across the world. Every single person could be affected by viral hepatitis and we all have a part to play to achieve elimination. HERD Medical Foundation stands up to the challenge and will continue to focus on elimination of this deadly killer.